NORTH ANDOVER — The North Andover Board of Selectmen voted unanimously to send a letter to Gov. Charlie Baker requesting that he reconsider using the "red zone" classification for the town, which was recently hit by a COVID-19 outbreak at Merrimack College.
"We respectfully request that you reconsider using the 'red' classification as the metric for moving to Phase 3 Step 2, and consider carving obvious clusters in universities and colleges out of city/town numbers moving forward," said the letter, which was signed by Chris Nobile, the chairman of the North Andover Board of Selectmen.
On Sept. 30, North Andover was designated a high risk or red community by the state following a COVID-19 outbreak at Merrimack College, where 93 students have tested positive. During the same period, only 16 cases were reported among town residents, outside of the college outbreak, the letter states.
The board says in the letter that Monican Hall, where most of the outbreak originated at Merrimack College, is technically in Andover, but since the college uses a North Andover mailing address, North Andover was designated a red-zone community as a result.
"We have the red designation because in another community there was a spike, but unfortunately the address it was written on, the college address, is North Andover," said Selectwoman Rosemary Smedile. She later added, "It's just really troubling, there's just such an unfairness to this process, for a community that was low in the green that now has jumped up to red and it's not even on our land."
The red designation assigned to North Andover means that the town cannot proceed into Phase 3 Step 2, which became effective today. This phase allows indoor and outdoor performance venues, gyms, museums and libraries to open capacity to 50% and permits the reopening of fitting rooms in retail stores, among other things.
"I think people were kind of getting a sense of freedom and now we are getting pushed back," said Smedile. "What if you were a bride planning your wedding at The Stevens Estate and now you have to tell 50 people, 'You can't come.' It's just really troubling."